By Terri Lynn Oldham House
Thankfully, the election is over.
We may not know all of the results at this time, but hopefully the hateful politics are over.
Now it is time to turn our thoughts to honoring our veterans who fought for our freedom to cast our vote.
You’ll find a special section in this week’s paper that recognizes those heroes who fought for us to have the continued right to vote for the leaders of this great country. It’s become an annual tradition to print this section for Veterans Day. This year, we have an additional 51 faces included in the list of honorees.
Since the year 2000, Pagosa Springs Middle School’s (PSMS) eighth-grade class has been hosting a breakfast as another way to honor and thank our veterans for their service to our country.
Students, parents and teachers prepare and serve breakfast to all the veterans who attend. But it’s more than just breakfast that is served. They dish out love, thankfulness and admiration for those who served our country. Everyone who attends the event walks away with a nourished heart and soul.
With COVID-19, there were concerns about just how to hold such an event safely. PSMS eighth-grade U.S. history teacher Steven Long wrote in an email to The SUN that, “myself, Mr. White and the entire school district are committed to making sure this tradition lives on.”
The staff and students are making necessary adjustments to support safety precautions in the pandemic.
When he was alive, my dad always looked forward to the annual Veterans Day breakfast.
I would use the excuse of taking photos for the newspaper so that I could watch from the sidelines as Dad shared his scrapbook of Navy memories with youngsters who were eager to hear his stories. I loved to watch his eyes sparkle with happiness as he reminisced with other veterans.
The following unedited letters were printed in the Nov. 16, 2017, Pagosa Springs SUN. These letters can best explain the experience our veterans have by attending the breakfast:
“We got da’ bestus” Our 8th graders — “The best in the country”
Our students we have in the 8th grade are to be exemplified and this is due to what is taught at home and polished up by our educators we have here, we are so lucky and fortunate to have these folks. I have been to every one of these since Tom Richards invited me to the first one, and these young adults just continue to impress me with their very adult like questioning concerning veterans. They hit on everything from A to Z, and in between. It is a pleasure to carry on a conversation with these young adults and without being too redundant, it still starts at home and polished up with our educators suffice. These young adults that sat at our table and was replaced with vets, we all had the same admiration for them and again, it was our pleasure alone with a good breakfast served to the veterans.
In my 25 years in the Navy, 14 years was as a photo journalist and that was really interesting to a lot of these youngsters and the questions continued. Some of these young people were propounding questions to me and at that time, I thought maybe they should be having breakfast and I asking the questions. (Just kidding.) I told them that I had a better job than most flag officers (admirals), they made more money, but I had a better job than theirs … they laughed for the most part, they are very special people, what else can I say?
My comment to all who said to me, “Thanks for your service,” I replied with all sincerity, “Thanks for your support,” without that there wouldn’t be much for us.
Thanks again for the bang-up breakfast and the legion flag story, along with the choir singers, perfect.
petty officer second class (retired)
Mr. White, the students of the Pagosa Springs 8th grade, the supporting staff and the many volunteers assisting them, did it again. In a matter of a few hours last Friday, children ages 13 to 15 demonstrated the meaning of values, patriotism, and respect by honoring the veterans who have served or are serving in the United States military. My wife and I were very moved as they moved from table to table greeting each and every person who entered. Their appearance throughout the event presented a professional, courteous, and mature image. I was so moved by everything that, unexpectedly, tears appeared in my eyes when a young man sat down at our table and began asking pertinent questions regarding military life. I became choked up and initially had difficulty talking with him.
I believe Ronald Reagan put into words what many of us “old timers” may feel during his farewell address to the nation on January 11, 1989. Here is an excerpt from that speech.
“Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American, and we absorbed almost in the air a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed, you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture.”
The age group that President Reagan referred to during his speech has moved to the range of 65 or so. Our ability to teach things such as duty, honor, and country is greatly reduced. It is now up to the parents and teachers of the children of today to help teach these important values. The current, almost toxic, cultural and political atmosphere of our country, combined with the method in which much of the media chooses to communicate many events plaguing our nation and the world, make this more difficult. However, the eighth graders of Pagosa Springs, their parents, and teachers have proved that they are up to the task.
Finally, I leave the parents and the children of Pagosa Springs with one last excerpt from President Reagan’s farewell speech:
“… lesson No. 1 about America : All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American — let ‘em know and nail ‘em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.
On behalf of all those who are serving or who have served their country, we thank Mr. White, the students of the Pagosa Springs 8th grade and all those who assisted them for their fine effort. It will stay with us for a long time.
Russ and Jacqui Widener
Thank you to our eighth-graders for honoring and protecting the legacies of our treasured veterans.
Thank you to those of you who will contribute to the event this year.
Thank you to our veterans for protecting our precious freedoms.